2007December4, Tuesday

A Life-Changing Thought

Posted in My Life, Theology at 0:19 by Trey Austin

Mark Horne reminds us of the good points of the Auburn Avenue 2002 Pastor’s Conference, regardless of the more controversial aspects.

It is interesting that he would choose to quote that portion of that sermon, because it was that last paragraph he quoted that was the lynchpin of my thinking. When i heard those words, it was like—pardon the dramatic allusion to the Holy Apostle Paul—scales fell off of my eyes, and i could see real Covenant Theology for the first time. Before that, i thought i held to Covenant Theology; you know, the kind where the Covenant God made with Adam is what we’re all in, and then, the elect are excused from that Covenant and come under the Covenant that the Lord Jesus Christ sealed with his own blood. But Pastor Steve’s words there made me think of something more earthy, more biblical, and less systematized than High Federal theology (which, i have come to find out, is what the thing i called “Covenant Theology” before is actually called). It was a theology that took the Old Covenant Scriptures just as seriously and applicably as the New Covenant Scriptures.

The truth is, though, that when i began listening to the AAPC 2002 lectures, i was a committed credobaptist Calvinist, but when i finished that sermon, the Lord had shown me the Scriptural truth of his Covenant promises to his people and all of their descendants after them. Of course, at that time, i didn’t have any children, so it didn’t mean all that much to me, but now that i do, it means all the more. God has not committed himself to me and left my children to fend for themselves; he has committed himself to me in his grace and he has promised that very same grace to my children as well—not hypothetically, not academically, not contingently, but truly and sincerely so that he will be our God and that we and our children after us will be his people.

The funny thing about this, in retrospect, is that the only reason that i happened upon those recordings to begin with was because a fellow Baptist friend of mine had brought Steve Schlissel’s preaching to my attention, especially his sermons on the Jewish holidays and their meaning and place to us in a Christian context. I really enjoyed them, and so i explored the whole database of sermons that were, at that time, posted on SermonAudio, and found the lectures from the AAPC. Even more funny, though, is that that fellow Baptist friend is now a committed Covenantalist as well, and i have it on good authority that he reads this blog from time to time (thanks, Al).

No, i don’t agree with every aspect of the Federal Vision, but i must say that some of the things that they teach are the only things that make sense. I don’t know how to be a Covenantalist and give the Covenant sign to my children with the full meaning it brings to bear while retaining doubt in my mind about whether Jehovah is truly my children’s God. If i were to delve into the world of decretalism to the Nth degree (i.e., God only is ever in Covenant with the elect/regenerate; baptism is only truly baptism for the elect/regenerate; God only desires the salvation of the elect/regenerate; &c.), the only logical place for me to be is as a credobaptist. However, if i am to live by what God has revealed, and not by the secret things that belong only to him, then a robust, Scriptural, and grace-filled Covenant Theology is the only thing i can hold.

This past Sunday (1st Advent), the Psalm reading from the Revised Common Lectionary was Psalm 122; it was our call to worship. There, the psalmist there exhorts the people of God to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, both for the sake of our brothers and companions, and also for the sake of the House of God. Well, Paul and Peter both tell us that we, the Church, are indeed that House, and we know that the Church is the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is the Mother of us all. So, i continue to pray for the peace of Jerusaelm and trust that God has a good purpose in all this seeming nonsense. May he be justified when he speaks and prevail when he judges. May his judgment come quickly to bring peace and guidance to these confused sheep.



  1. Al said,

    A few things… First of all, I find this whole Baptist to Covenantalist phenomenon very interesting. My experience and the experience of many other I know, shows that when Baptists reject a baptistic hermeneutic they go all the way, believing what God says about their kids and letting that effect their practice. That is why you find so many former Baptists in the CRE. We are comfortable there, looking at our children as full members of the covenant.

    Which brings me to my second point… Didn’t you mean signs vs. sign? There is more than one sign given to the church you know 🙂

    Next, I remember those Schlissel tapes. I think the ones I was listening to were the “Baptist-safe” messages, dealing with egalitarianism. They did lead to wonderful places though.

    One last thing… We (the Stout family) were reading Isaiah 40:1-10 this morning and considering how a message of repentance can be a comfort to people who are in sin. What a blessing to know that John’s ministry pointed to his Cousin and did not stop with all the talk of vipers. The advent of Jesus Christ dispels darkness (my sermon topic for the next few weeks) and in His light we see our sin, the need for repentance, the promise of Salvation in the cross and Resurrection.

    God bless you, Angela and the growing grove of olive plants around your table this Christmas.

    al sends

  2. tempe said,

    Schlissel? I would have thought it was my brilliant defense of covenant theology during lunch at Erskine… 😉

  3. Trey Austin said,

    Al, while i question the artificial (and, ironically enough, unwarranted, Scripturally–how’s that for RPW issues?) creation of two classes of Church/Covenant members (communicant and non-communicant), i still haven’t gone down the full paedocommunion route yet. I don’t affirm keeping the sign from children inordinately, but i do affirm that children should be able to eat and understand the most basic issues of the Gospel to come to the Table. So, when i say “sign,” i mean the one you give to children. 🙂

    Tim, yes, those helped too, but i will never forget listening to “Covenant Reading.” My mind was opened for the first time, and i felt that as i listened. As Stu Latimer says, my “Baptist Glasses” were taken off at that time. There were lots of contributing factors (i think i’ve told you about hearing my pastor at the time preach from the pulpit that “infant baptism is evil”; your conversations; my reading of Calvin; my being challenged by friends and professors, &c.), but the most immediate means God used was that sermon. I could never forget that.

  4. tempe said,

    Ah, my conversations were pretty much worthless in the grand scheme of things, imho, other than providing a “challenge” (most Christians just want to look the other way). I’m just not sure I said anything fruitful otherwise. OTOH, having someone “genuinely confrontational” (and I don’t mean that to be negative) like our esteemed Systematics prof, probably didn’t hurt. As far as Rev. Dean goes (and I truly like him, and he was a good teacher in Evangelism class), it was probably one of those situations where he spoke before thinking. I hope he has repented of that comment, even if he doesn’t agree with infant baptism. At any rate, I think he sees (in you and God’s work in your life) the consequences of his hasty words.

    Interestingly, I thought about you (and your ministry in Tigerville) last week. I went into the cell phone store and the young lady helping me went to North Greenville (and lived for a while in Tigerville). She, of course, was younger than we, but she did visit your old church once or twice while there (too old for her, she complained). Oh well, I suppose that’s one of those “consequences” on non-covenantalism. 🙂

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